Princess: Blood is thicker than Bud Light
So earlier this week, for the first time since our wedding, the entire Margo-Berkley clan got together for a little family visit.
From the very start of our relationship, it was clear we have a pretty rare situation with two families that actually really get along. It helps that we are all members of the same political party, and even though we come from different religious backgrounds, none of us ever particularly expressed any serious religious beliefs, other than the “please, God,” variety when something isn’t going our way. Even more unusual is both sets of parents are still together after 40-plus years of marriage and set for us both a stellar example of what a healthy marriage is supposed to look like, even if it does involve a lot of eyeball rolling and arms-folded-across-the-chest indignation.
It was rare to have my brother Daniel here. He has basically become an ex-pat who lives in Costa Rica full time, and I’m not talking about some hip beach town where all the Americans go and pretend to know how to surf. He lives deep in the country where only Costa Ricans live, where 10 bucks can buy you a decent meal and a beer, an hour of labor from a local mechanic and maybe even a routine teeth cleaning. Daniel has hung up his hat as a burgeoning real estate developer and become passionate about building tiny houses, like the 800-square-foot duplex he just completed on a steep mountainside in a suburb of San Jose that overlooks an active volcano. He’s gotten to the point where he thinks it’s totally normal to have a maid who also is a massage therapist, to date model-pretty women younger than 25, and to spend the hot part of the day napping in a hammock, which is pretty much most of the day.
It’s also rare to have Ryan’s brother Aaron and his wife Cory and daughter MacKenzie all here at the same time, too. Contrary to my brother’s early retirement plan, they work full time, have an 11-year-old with a busy schedule and can’t just go gallivanting off to Colorado whenever they feel like it.
There are other differences, too.
Like the first night we all got together, we went out to dinner at a grossly overpriced restaurant near the hotel just because I thought it would be easier. It’s one of those places that has food so dressed up it’s hard to know exactly what it is that you are eating. I’m talking about weird combinations and menu descriptions that require a translation (“Excuse me, what is pistou?”). My mother, who clearly missed her calling as a career-destroying restaurant critic, was already complaining about the place before we even got there, which I knew was a bad sign.
Lindarose is one of those people who is not afraid to complain or worse, send a dish back and demand it be taken off the bill so everyone has to then chew on the tension that has now thickened the air in the room like cold animal fat. That’s when my father and I climb under the table, muttering about how great everything is, even if it isn’t. Daniel has clearly inherited the complainer gene and once sent back a bottle of ketchup, insisting that it wasn’t real Heinz. Who sends back a condiment?
So I knew we were off to a bad start when Mom marched up to the bar with her vodka on the rocks complaining that it was not a generous enough pour.
It only went downhill from there. Mom, to her credit, did put on a face when her Caesar arrived overdressed and called the scallops with a fried egg on top “unusual,” which is code for “bizarre” and two degrees left of “inedible.”
It was Daniel who freaked out about his Colorado rack of lamb only having three chops instead of six, calling it an “appetizer” and lamenting about the 47-dollar price tag. This went on through dinner and then for several hours afterward, wherein I was berated for choosing a horrible restaurant. That’s when Mom’s true feelings came out and she concurred with Complaining Brother. The two of them went on and an on until I was ready to stick needles in my eyes as a more pleasant alternative than listening to them.
The Margos, on the other hand, celebrated the meal with the same gusto they would a home improvement project, killing weeds, shooting beer cans with the BB gun or making Grandma Millie’s chicken wing recipe, which calls for two bottles of Russian dressing, two jars of apricot jam and a packet of Lipton soup mix. Ryan and Aaron called the dessert “the best thing they’d ever tasted” and their dad agreed, followed by the following disclaimer.
He said, “Over the years, I have learned to agree with everything they say to spare myself a 20-minute argument over something I don’t care anything about.”
Now there is the picture of a functional family.
So it was especially satisfying when the Margos somehow got my mother to shoot a beer can with a BB gun, which is one of their main sources of entertainment when they come here. They love to sit under the “Manzebo,” which is nothing more than a lean-to that was left in our backyard by the previous owners, drink can after can of Bud Light and sip on Fireball as they burn scrap wood and pizza boxes Ryan saves just for that occasion in the fire pit. (“This is not Central America!” I always say to him. “We don’t have to burn our garbage. We can just throw it away!”)
For whatever weird quirks and differences we do have, the beautiful thing we all share in common is that there is nothing more important than family.
The Princess is saving the surprise from last week’s column for the end of August, so stay tuned! Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.